I'm posting this as a bleg to my readers: do any of you find Christmas dinner to be a sort of dilemma?
Picture the typical Catholic family on Christmas day. The whole family has gone to Mass (or, at least, those family members who did not contract a dreaded right-before-Christmas virus or something) either the night before, or at midnight, or fairly early Christmas morning. The wonders under the tree have been unwrapped and explored, removed from frustrating packaging, had batteries added or been assembled; the family has then enjoyed a Christmas breakfast ranging from the simple and ordinary to the elaborate and extreme. Now, the youngest family members are down for a Christmas midday nap; the next youngest are playing with their Christmas toys; the next youngest are settling in for a good Christmas squabble until Dad notices, and so on. Everyone is relaxed, Christmas music plays softly--and Mom heads for the kitchen to get preparations underway for Christmas dinner.
So far, so good, right? But unless Mom is an enthusiastic cook who dreams up and plans her Christmas dinner with joy, what happens next can vary a lot...and so can Mom's mood and her enjoyment of Christmas.
One of the problems for us Americans is that we've had Thanksgiving a month before. Some families find it extremely important for Christmas dinner to be Thanksgiving Mark II, complete with turkey, dressing, cranberries, traditional sides, fine china and glassware, and all the panoply of the Thanksgiving meal, with, perhaps, a few unique Christmas touches (such as, perhaps, a real Christmas pudding, though that is not something I've ever tasted myself). Other desserts may be anything from the much-maligned yet under-appreciated fruitcake to the same sorts of pies one might serve at Thanksgiving; and the whole scene is supposed to convey the rosy glow of a Norman Rockwell painting.
But I have to be honest: I find the idea of cooking what is essentially a second Thanksgiving dinner a month after Thanksgiving rather difficult. On Thanksgiving Day the cook or cooks have the whole day to prepare and cook the meal; on Christmas Day the cook has considerably less time, and unless he or she absolutely loves cooking a huge meal and finds it a relaxing and enjoyable hobby to do so he or she is possibly going to be a bit cranky by the time the family troops in to eat. And, let's face it: preparing what is essentially the same "Holiday Meal" twice in a month is a bit boring. Sure, you could change the main course from a turkey to a ham or vice versa, and you can tinker with the sides and desserts a bit, but you're essentially doing the exact same sort of cooking.
Now, I know that lots of people skip the "Second Thanksgiving" type of Christmas dinner. There are all sorts of other meals that individual families embrace as their own family tradition. For instance, my sister's late mother-in-law reportedly made Christmas a day for a deli spread (which would be great in Texas in years when it's 70 degrees at Christmas). Around here, it's traditional for some people to order tamales for Christmas (or for New Year's). Many cultures have traditional Christmas foods which are very far from what is customary in our culture.
So, my bleg is this: I'd like to hear from readers who have Christmas food traditions that go beyond a second round of Thanksgiving fare. What do you cook and serve? Is it a family custom, a cultural tradition, or some combination? Is Christmas a day to pull out all the stops and go gourmet, or is it a day for a sort of glorified snacking?
Share recipes, if you like! I'm hoping to get some new ideas, having done everything from a fairly traditional Christmas dinner to some decidedly non-traditional choices in years past.
I'm posting this rather late, but I'll check in for comments first thing tomorrow. :)